OK. I admit it.
I’ve bought into Minecraft as an educational tool.
I think it will work to build a pretty good community in my classroom. So I’ve posted a request for donations on DonorsChoose. DonorsChoose is a grass-roots crowdsourcing site that allows you to hit up all the lovely people you know for a buck here and a buck there. And eventually, you can buy those things that the school just doesn’t seem to have the cash to purchase.
Here’s the request that DonorsChoose asks me to send out to friends and neighbors and relatives:
And I will. But first, I need to talk through my justifications.
I have just played Minecraft for the past five weeks with an extraordinary group of educators, most of whom already have bought into Minecraft as a thing you do. Some of them are extensively knowledgeable.
Me? I’m a newb. I didn’t know anything about Minecraft, other than it was important enough to my daughter to ask me to invest $6 of her own money for an app on the iPad so she could play.
So I jumped in. How can you criticize something you know nothing about? I had heard it had educational applications. I had my doubts.
But now I can see specific applications where students could be nudged not only into participating, but into joining–and thriving in–a community.
One of my mantras since I started blogging was the need for students to feel safe and loved and cared about in order for learning to take place.
In my schools in chilly Vermont, there is not one teacher who doesn’t surreptitiously take a look at the footwear of children as they walk into a room on a cold, snowy morning, just to make sure they have the right clothing. We feed our kids snacks, and we offer breakfast in the hallways to hungry teens. We don’t worry about the economic backgrounds. We just know that hungry, cold, hurting kids can’t learn.
And a big part of that is establishing a loving community in the classroom. As I’ve told my students in the past, you don’t have to like everybody, but you do have to accept them as people, and you do have to understand that everybody is going through his or her own personal struggles.
And we can be a friend to those in need.
Conversations that have been happening in the EVO Minecraft community often have to do with people asking for help or asking for advice. Everybody is trying to figure things out, and to do that, you sometimes need a friendly voice to talk you through it, or to throw you a bone. Or to tell you how to build something you desperately need to be able to move on or find a new goal.
I started thinking about soft skills, something that I had tried to connect dance and movement to in my classroom for the past couple of years. Soft skills are those things that we are rarely explicitly taught in the classroom. You can’t really test soft skills. But you can develop them. And hone them.
I found this lovely video of a teacher in Maryland who found out that he was teaching soft skills with Minecraft:
And then I was sold. I went immediately to DonorsChoose and wrote my grant. It just got approved yesterday to be posted on the site.
I think this can bring those boys who I am so afraid will drop out so very soon back into the fold.
The fact that they are the masters, they are the ones who are the decision-makers, the builders, the knowledge holders, it puts them in a unique position to feel power and control over a world in which they feel they possess very little power and control.
Maybe I can convince them that life doesn’t just happen to them. They can be the movers and the shakers.
And they can be the ones to create a chest that has a bunch of food in it for the person who is struggling to survive. They can be the one to just happen to have an extra compass on hand that they can throw at someone so they can find their way back home.
I have found that there came a point in Minecraft where I finally felt as though I had abundance. I have enough to give away; I have enough to share. I have enough that I can show kindness to strangers and feel like it’s the right thing to do.
And if feels much better than hiding from zombies.